If anything, by completely obscuring Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture with his installation, James Turrell reaffirmed my already profound love for the Guggenheim–like the new appreciation one might have for a healed limb after the cast has been removed.
At the museum Friday for the Christopher Wool exhibition, I was reminded of how Wright created not just a place for art, but for people—a social space in one big room that hums like a party. In most museums the other visitors are annoyances, always in the way, going the wrong direction, talking too loudly or blocking the view—but at the Guggenheim they’re fellow travellers. The ramp is like a sidewalk where you can stop and chat (no need to whisper); it respects your pace. You can see what’s ahead above or across the atrium and get exited about it in advance, stand as close or look as far as you want. What other museum offers a view from over 100 feet?
Plus the natural light that comes in from the skylight at the top….
In the usual rectangular museum gallery, I’m overly conscious of the amount of time I’m spending in front of something, and am always torn – should I be looking at this or this or is there something more interesting behind me? What am I missing? And this time at the Guggenheim, when I exited the ramp to see the paintings installed in the one conventional room, they lost some of their dynamism. I didn’t want to be there, enclosed, with no windows. I wanted to be “outside.”
I not only remember the work in exhibitions I’ve seen at the Guggenheim, I remember where it was situated and how it felt to come upon it—the “uninterrupted, beautiful symphony” of architecture and art Wright intended.
Further, there’s a single toilet or two at every level, so no need to descend to a dungeon and crowd into the usual bathroom horribleness—how civilized is that?
Our forebears made art on the walls of caves with no right angles. I think they had had the right idea.